WFT Student Spotlight Series: Jacobus Kwaak

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My first semester working for WFT marked two years since my last foray into live
theatre. Growing up on Cape Cod, my summers mainly consisted of camp classes at the
then-Harwich Junior Theatre, now Cape Cod Theatre Company – home of the Harwich Junior
Theatre. At these summer workshops, I learned the basics of acting in Creative Drama and the
understanding of what goes into making plays through the Tech (Technical Theatre) Class. As I
got older I branched out into Teen Acting and became part of the backstage crew for the
Theatre’s productions. Eventually, I had major roles in both mainstage productions and the
shows put on by the Junior Players group, in addition to the sound operator for some shows. My
last major role at CCTC-HJT was Peter Pan in 2017’s Peter Pan & Wendy. That’s why in winter
2020, as I started to copy information from the programs onto the shows’ web pages, a few
names stuck out to me.

Chief among these names was James P. Byrne, although I know him as Jim Byrne from
my experience working with him at CCTC-HJT. Jim directed the Junior Players, a teenage
theatre troupe that my friends and I were in. We performed shows on the main stage and at local
libraries and community centers. I have fond memories of being the King Looney in Raggedy
Ann and Andy and quite possibly my favorite role, the Narrator in The Stinky Cheese Man. I also
had the pleasure of acting alongside him as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, in which he played
Atticus, my father. I was also Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Peter
Pan in Peter Pan and Wendy, both shows directed by Jim.

I knew there was a close connection between WFT and the CCTC-HJT, as I also had the
pleasure of working backstage for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Beauty and the
Beast, directed by Wheelock’s very own Jane Staab. What I didn’t realize was how many shows
Jim had directed at the Wheelock Family Theatre, the most recent of his being Charlotte’s Web
in 2017. Given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, it was nice to see a reminder of
my life back home. It also made me realize how small the world really is, especially when you’re
in theatre! The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but live theatre, with its reliance on
reaching large audiences, has been hit particularly hard. I only hope that everything will be back
normal before too long.